Somalia head of athletics suspended, accused of nepotism

The head of athletics in Somalia has been suspended by the country’s Olympic committee for “shaming” the nation following the circulation of a viral video showing an amateur runner finishing last in an international race.

Sports Minister Mohamed Barre Mohamud announced on Wednesday that a female athlete who represented Somalia in the 100 meters at the Summer World University Games in China was neither a “sports person nor a runner.”

In a letter addressed to the nation’s Olympic committee, Sports Minister Mohamed Barre Mohamud stated that there was no “Somali University Sports Association” and urged the committee to suspend Khadijo Aden Dahir, the chairwoman of the Somali Athletics Federation.

Somali runner Nasro Abukar Ali, identified by the ministry, finished more than 10 seconds behind the winner, leading to ridicule and outrage among Somalis on social media.

The Somalia Olympic Committee stated that Khadijo Adan Dahir, the chairwoman of the Somali Athletics Federation, had engaged in power abuse and nepotism by selecting Nasro Abukar Ali, who had no sports background, after obtaining evidence regarding the selection process.

“This has shamed the sports of the country.”

“Henceforth, I have temporarily suspended Khadijo Adan Dahir”, the committee added.

During a Facebook interview on Thursday, Nasro Abukar Ali asserted that she had been “selected through a competitive process” but had sustained an injury before the race, explaining her performance.

“When I was running in the competition, I had muscle strain but in order to avoid being blamed I was still running”, Ali said, adding that she was “disappointed to be the last one”.

“I have been selected through a competitive process by a university sports association, they are blaming the chairwoman for nothing, they were looking for ways to blemish her image and remove her from the office, she has nothing to do with this,” she said.

“I was running in the competition with a muscle strain, but I didn’t want to be blamed, so I continued running,” said Ali during the interview. She expressed disappointment at finishing last in the race.

Embarrassment of the nation

Minister Mohamud stated that his office intends to take legal action against Dahir and those involved in the “falsification of the Somali University Sports Association”.

In the letter, he accused Dahir of “engaging in acts of abuse of power, nepotism, and tarnishing the nation’s name in the international arena” by selecting Ali to compete in the race.

“We apologise to the public for the embarrassment this has caused the country and we are investigating the matter to find out how this has happened”, he told a press conference late Wednesday.

Located in the Horn of Africa and grappling with a violent militant insurgency and a severe drought, Somalia was placed last among 180 nations on Transparency International’s corruption index in 2022.

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